Ruth Kinane
May 11, 2018 at 11:25 AM EDT

On Thursday in New York City, the cast of broadway smash hit Dear Evan Hansen and Steven Levenson, the writer of the original book, as well as representatives from various foundations came together for an event intended to raise awareness and dispel stigma surrounding mental health.

After introductions from the show’s producer Stacey Mindich, Levenson was joined onstage by the president of Child Mind Institute Dr. Harold Koplewicz, for a frank discussion of mental health and what we can learn from the character of Evan Hansen.

When Koplewicz asked Levenson about the inception of this character, the writer shared that his co-writer and the musical’s lyricist Benj Pasek had experienced kids in his own high school trying to insert themselves in a tragedy that took place while he was there, and they decided to explore that idea.

“What we landed on was a desperation to connect, which is what we saw behind all of it,” explained Levenson. “This powerful urge to connect even if that meant not necessarily being honest about it but somehow finding a community even it wasn’t true. When we started talking about connection we actually said, ‘What would it mean to have a character who can’t connect? Who in this world of people so desperate for connection, this is somebody who is as desperate but is unable?’ That was actually the begging of Evan…was starting from the premise of, who is this person? Why is he so unable to break through those barriers he sees all around him?”

Koplewicz and Levenson went on to further discuss the stigma surrounding mental health and the musical’s impact on the subject, before actress Rowan Blanchard (Girl Meets World) came onstage with world-renowned leaders in the mental health space for more in-depth conversation on the matter, as well as social media’s role in it all, and what can be done on a daily basis to make sure those suffering know that people care. 

After an audience Q&A and a couple of PSAs, the current cast of Dear Evan Hansen took to the stage for a rousing and emotional performance of “You Will Be Found.”

Watch the full video of “You Will Be Found: A Mental Health Month Symposium,” presented by TIME, philosophy and Dear Evan Hansen above and visit bornthisway.foundation philosophy.com/hope-and-grace for more information.

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